Signs Matter when Travelers Can’t Read or Speak a Language
Finding my way around Moscow when I don’t speak Russian and can’t read the Cyrillic alphabet becomes a bit of a fun challenge. Navigating the subway system, I am careful to count how many stops until I get off since I won’t be able to understand the announcements on the train. Staying close to windows and doors so I can try to ascertain a current stop becomes more important to me. Even if someone were to ask me, in English, which stop at which I want to disembark, I won’t be able to say. I can’t pronounce it. I can point on a map.
I focus on counting and looking at the first few letters on my map and matching them to the station names appearing on the subway’s walls. It’s scary, frustrating, and educational: Things I don’t think for a minute about on subways in New York or Washington I now focus on seriously here. If I get lost on this subway system, my experience could be scary. I appreciate how challenging existences are for immigrants in the United States who are just learning their way around and just beginning to learn English.
The Moscow subways are beautiful. This is a place where the worker is glorified, appreciated. Beautiful mosaics and other art appears in these stations; they are worth the anxiety associated with getting on these trains.
I am fortunate; I find my way; even when I appear to be floundering, plenty of helpful Russians approach me and ask, in English, if they can be of assistance.
Yes, the signs and the navigation are intimidating; given the opportunity, I will do this again.
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